* * *
Richard had no way to know how long he’d been flat on his back, in a bed, in a dark, locked, otherwise-empty room. He was angered when the lights came on. They were bright. The door opened. A man in an expensive suit walked in.
Richard’s brain went into “attack mode,” and told his body to kill this intruder. Having recently undergone major abdominal surgery, though, his body wasn’t up to the task. He collapsed in a heap at the man’s feet.
“That wasn’t very smart, Richard. However, we don’t need you for your mind. You’ll work fine.” The man turned to speak more loudly, in the direction of the open door. “This one will work! Have him ready to launch in a week!”
“Launch? What launch?” Richard hadn’t been conscious since being shot by police after a killing spree. He was furious, but powerless to do anything about it. “Who are you? Don’t I get a lawyer or something?”
“You killed twenty-two people. You were captured and shot by the police. A doctor worked for hours to save you. As far as anyone knows, though, he failed. The world thinks you’re dead, and absolutely no one misses you, or will look for you. Don’t expect a lawyer. Yes, you’ll be perfect.” The man left before Richard could gather the strength to attempt attack again. The lights stayed on — for the rest of the time Richard was in the room.
Richard received drugs through an IV tube. He got angry at one point, and ripped the IV out of his arm, spraying blood all over the place. Gas then entered the room through a panel in the ceiling, and, when he could finally hold his breath no more, he inhaled a small amount, and it knocked him out.
When he next regained consciousness, he was held motionless by restraints. A new IV was in his other arm, and a feeding tube had been placed down his throat. He was surprised he didn’t gag, for he had no way to know that one of the drugs entering his body through the IV tube suppressed his gag reflex. His fury filled his thoughts, after only a little while, but it made no difference. He could do nothing except heal. A week later, he was judged healthy enough to survive a launch into space — maybe — by a team of doctors whom he never saw. Most of them had medical and/or ethical reservations, of course, and expressed them. These objections were ignored.
One doctor never voiced objections. He was the one who was monitoring this unusual patient when he had a strong sedative administered, and then taken to a small space probe, atop a tall rocket. By that point, the other doctors had all been reassigned, and some were already dead, seemingly from natural causes. The rest followed soon thereafter, by “disease” or “accident.”
Richard was still heavily sedated when the rocket was launched. Accelerating him into space nearly killed him, but that didn’t bother the computer which piloted the space probe. It didn’t need Richard’s assistance, and simply monitored his vital signs, relaying them back to Houston Space Central. He had no viewport, and so did not know that he had been placed into orbit around the sun, in earth’s orbit, but in the opposite direction.
Months earlier, a powerful, automated telescope, in solar orbit, had detected something no one in NASA had been able to explain. It was located in earth’s orbit, also, on the far side of the sun, where the earth would be or was, six months into the future or past. It revolved around the sun at the same speed as the earth, and in the same direction. It might have just appeared there, or it might have been there for billions of years. There was no way to tell, for the simple reason that no one had looked at that region of space before.
After it was discovered that the object’s x-ray signature resembled that of a black hole, the decision was quickly made to keep the anomaly a secret, lest a panic begin. In other wavelengths, though, it appeared as a planet-sized object of the expected temperature, or didn’t appear at all. The distribution of readings along the electromagnetic spectrum baffled all who were allowed access to this discovery. It wasn’t perturbing any orbits with the gravitational pull it would have if it had, say, the mass of the earth, or even of earth’s moon. As far as NASA’s scientists could tell, it had no gravitational effect on anything.
A robotic probe was sent to the far side of the sun, equipped with observational and communications equipment. It sent signals, right up to the point when it had encountered the anomaly. At that moment, it fell permanently silent.
The loss of a $950,000,000 space probe would be hard to hide from Congress, so the second probe, the one containing Richard Wayne Dahmer, was stripped down, and less expensive. It did not have the sophisticated sensing equipment on the first probe. It was sent simply to learn what effect, if any, close proximity, and then an actual encounter with, the enigma in earth’s orbit would have on a human being, and then send that medical data back to earth. No well-known, expensively-trained astronaut was needed; what was, rather, was someone deemed completely expendable. Richard, therefore, fit the criteria for this mission perfectly. No one connected to the mission saw any reason to inform Richard, himself, of any of this, and so he had no idea what awaited him. But, then again, neither did those people who merely thought they were controlling his mission.
He got furious, repeatedly, but that didn’t matter. After three months, his windowless probe encountered the anomaly. Once again, mission monitors for NASA saw all communications from a probe go dark, all at the same time. The conclusion was that the anomaly was incompatible with human life, and that the involuntary passenger on the probe had died.
Richard wasn’t dead, however. He, and his probe, fell into the mysterious singularity. Like a black hole, it had an event horizon. The probe passed through it, entering a void out of which it could send no signals back to earth, and inside which it detected, just as it vanished, the first, purely-robotic probe NASA had sent. The message about this discovery could not escape the event horizon, however, and so there it stayed.
The singularity woke up. It was conscious now. It had reversed direction, acquiring the momentum of Richard’s probe, in its entirety, as if the singularity itself had no mass. It was headed toward earth, along that planet’s orbit. It also vanished from the view of the sun-orbiting telescope which had first detected it. No one on earth knew it was coming.
Richard Wayne — no, just Richard, that was enough, he needed no other name now — was awake, and undrugged, now. There was no evidence of the probe that had held him for the last three months. He saw only the void. He didn’t see the singularity. He was the singularity, and the singularity was him.
The brain tumor that had been exerting ever-increasing pressure on that part of the brain responsible for moral reasoning — for ethical behavior — was now gone, along with Richard’s physical brain, itself. Only his consciousness remained, unimpaired by the undiscovered tumor which had turned him into a raging psychopath.
He wasn’t angry any longer, and, although he didn’t know it, he was now heading towards home.
* * *
The Story of the Void continues here: https://robertlovespi.wordpress.com/2014/02/01/the-story-of-the-void-chapter-three/.